The Culmination of Our Classes About Trafficking

To begin our discussions of human trafficking, we first read the piece of graphic journalism “Borderland”, by Dan Archer. The stories Archer told interwove many of the important ideas of human trafficking with illustration and literary devices. He highlighted how our uses for slavery in the modern day frequently revolve around cheap consumer products, such as agriculture and clothing; purchases which are so frequent we don’t even think about what could be behind their production. To illustrate this point, he frequently depicted a whole image, separated by a gutter into two panels, to show how harsh working conditions were hidden in plain sight (Archer 13, 15, 22). Another method Archer used was to show the consumer’s mindless view of what they were consuming, and then the same image from a different perspective; in illustrating the bakery like this, he showed how we all could be walking past trafficked laborers without even knowing it (18). This served as our kicking off point, and it did it well; Archer made the topic approachable, and as fast as one needed it to be, without lacking depth if the reader were to delve into his illustrations.

Page 22 in Borderland

As we began to move from the stories of those who were trafficked to the movements trying to help them, we read about the tomato pickers of Immokalee, Florida. In order to harvest tomatoes at a low cost, workers are brought over the border with promises of a fair wage and lots of work (Estabrook). However, when many of the workers arrived, they were met with terrible working conditions and didn’t receive fair pay for it (Estabrook). This has left us where we are today; progress is eventually being made after many years of fighting the food industry about ensuring that it’s tomatoes are produced free of unfairly treated laborers. Companies such as A&W, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Long John Silver’s, McDonald’s Burger King, Whole Foods Market, and Subway have all agreed to pay slightly more for the tomatoes in order to ensure the workers are getting a fair wage (Estabrook). Interestingly, just two days ago the first “Fair Food” label started being produced in response to Immokalee’s poor working conditions (Williams). Similar to previous labels, it aims to inform consumers that the foods they’re producing are harvested by pickers making a fair wage and are given fair working conditions (Williams). The label will soon be seen on Whole Foods Markets’ tomatoes, after they move through the basic administration hurdles (Williams). After becoming aware of this issue, I look forward to hopefully identifying “Fair Food” labeled products when I visit the grocery store in my hometown.

The second part of our reading was regarding the statistics and trends about those who are trafficked. Perhaps most interesting to me was the trends and breakdown of the backgrounds that trafficking victims come from. ‘External macro environmental causes’, or larger issues facing society, ‘external micro environment causes’–issues within one’s personal life with friends and family, or an ‘individual interpersonal situation’–a lack of feeling control over their own life–were identified in almost all victims of trafficking (Ohio Trafficking). It really emphasized to me how trafficking victims are at the whim of the environment they’re placed in; people might accidentally walk into being trafficked, but what made them wander into their situation was the circumstances of their life before that.

All of the basic information we found in these readings culminated into Dr. Anthony Talbott’s talk about human trafficking as a problem in general and in Ohio. This time, however, he talked about what’s led to the situation of human trafficking we have today. As slavery transitioned between what it is today and what it once was, several events occurred. The population exploded while poverty, destitute conditions, and absence of law remained. These conditions allow for pimps, traffickers, and others in the business to take advantage of those in desperate conditions. While the traffickers may immoral, the basis of their business is the economic gain as a result of lack of enforcement; were we to be more aware of the products we purchase, the signs the people around us display, and the global issue that is human trafficking, the business itself would collapse. Instead, we’ve forgotten the issue as the global slave population diminished, allowing for slavery to change forms to what we see today. According to Talbott, the results of awareness are noticeable; since being educated on recognizing trafficking victims, the Ohio State Patrol’s numbers of victims they helped exit trafficking circles shot up. If there is one thing I hope to achieve after listening to Talbott discuss these issues, it is to integrate my new found knowledge of human trafficking more frequently into my daily purchases and what I write on my ballot.

After reading and reviewing Dan Archer’s writing and illustrations on the topic of human trafficking in and around Ukraine, it was nice to finally hear how his experiences with trafficking victims helped in creating Borderland. It seemed to me that we focused on most was how one creates such a work while having as much academic integrity as possible; Archer had quite a bit to say on the subject. As he was creating Borderland, he drew the images and showed them to the person whose story he was documenting, to make sure they felt it was accurate to their emotions and experiences. One thing that concerned me about the medium was how one could create depth while using images to do so; similarly to how I felt about his work, Archer felt that it was a diving board to further people’s interest and discussions of human trafficking. This was definitely the case for me as well, as I felt it told people’s stories much better than writing, but didn’t contain much statistical information besides the necessary text excerpts.

Finally, we ended on the Sara McKinnon talk. While I wasn’t able to attend this, as I was at the Helen Murray Free Lecture with the permission of Dr. Mirakhor, I did look up some of the basic history of US Asylum Policy with regards to China. As a result of China’s ‘One Child Policy’, many women sought asylum in the United States as otherwise they were forced into having abortions (Chinese Asylum). While this wasn’t covered under older laws, it was addressed, and women could seek asylum in the United States for fear of persecution (Chinese Asylum). However, now problems arise as men come seeking asylum for themselves and their pregnant wives in China, but aren’t granted it for either of them (Chinese Asylum). Women must come themselves, and their husbands must prove their persecution by the Chinese government separate from the violations of their wive’s rights, meaning women may choose to remain as well (Chinese Asylum).

Ultimately through this series of lectures I feel like a more informed person, and more active citizen with regards to trafficking. I’ve been shown the ways I effect the world through my purchases and political actions and plan to use these mediums to support victims of human trafficking in the future, when possible.

Works Cited

Archer, Dan, and Olga Trusova. “Borderland.” Borderland. Stanford: Archcomix, 2010. 13, 15, 18, 22. Print.

“Chinese Asylum.” Chinese Asylum Seekers USA. New York Human Rights Committee, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2014. <>.

Estabrook, Barry. 2009. “Politics of the Plate: The Price of Tomatoes.” Gourmet. March 2009, Pp.40-46.<>.

Ohio Trafficking in Persons Study Commission, Research and Analysis Sub-Committee. 2010. “Ohio Trafficking in Persons Study Commission Research and Analysis Sub-Committee Report on the Prevalence of Human Trafficking in Ohio To Attorney General Richard Cordray.” Ohio Attorney General’s Office.<>.

Williams, Amy Bennett. “Fair Food Label Makes Its National Debut.” Gannett Company, 25 Oct. 2014. Web. 27 Oct. 2014.<>.